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Nonverbal Communication Across Civilizations Cultural Studies Essay

Carl is you typical Filipino teenage who thankfully wins an opportunity to participate a youth convention held abroad. He meets many teenagers, just like him, who comes from various areas of the earth. Upon interacting with them, he locates some cultural methods to be relatively weird and unpleasant for him. Moreover, he also feels that the other young adults feel the same way about him; he doesn't know why. To make concerns worse, his roommate is of Midsection Eastern record. Carl can't quite realize why his roommate discussions too near to him and this his roommate frequently breaths right before his face. Being unsure of what to does, he just politely gestured to venture out and then he eventually does. With a great deal in his mind, he decided to grab a drink. Upon arriving at the refreshments corner, he met the Iranian girl which had recently given a wonderful presentation earlier. Expecting to socialize with her, Carl gestured her with the thumbs up hands signal for employment well done. Planning on a giggle or a thank you from her, Carl got the complete opposite; a humiliating slap to the face.

The world now could be getting smaller and smaller; this is made possible because of globalization and technology. Individuals from around the world are now given the possibility to meet and understand other individuals whose cultural background may vary from theirs. Because of this, misunderstandings might happen. For this never to happen, individuals must be very good communicators. One way of developing excellent communicating skills despite dissimilarities in record is by learning and mastering nonverbal communication and its own different interpretations surrounding the world. On this newspaper, one will be given an overview about what nonverbal communication is in general and lots of examples and scenarios how different cultures interpret these nonverbal cues.

Statement of the Problem

This paper seeks to give readers a synopsis of what nonverbal communication is and its importance in the communication process, especially in the cross- cultural setting. Also In such a paper the discussion of the interpretation of the various cultures of the various nonverbal cues is also presented.

Particularly, this newspaper first discusses what communication is and how communication happens nonverbally. The particular properties of nonverbal communication from the verbal communication is then talks about along with the functions of nonverbal communication afterwards. Next to this, the various nonverbal cues are then each extensively discussed so as to give the reader a general know-how about the topic. After achieving this, the importance of nonverbal communication in inter-cultural connections will be discussed. Soon after, common situations of how different civilizations understand each nonverbal cue will get so the readers will be made aware of how diverse each nonverbal cue is interpreted. That is also to provide them with an important knowledge that they will surely find useful and relevant in their day to day lives. Last but not least, the paper will discuss functional applications of the data of nonverbal communication and its own interpretation in several cultures all around the world.

Significance of the Problem

The study of nonverbal cues and its own interpretation around the world is effective to all. Here are just some specific groups of folks and the benefits they can achieve by harnessing the full potential of the utilization of nonverbal communication.

To the migrant workers, the knowledge of the nonverbal means of communicating, especially in their coordinator country, is essential for their survival. It's thru the data of the nonverbal cues where they can become far better communicators. And by becoming effective communicators, they are able to avoid misunderstandings and also express themselves easier and effectively.

To the experts, by becoming educated in nonverbal communication, they can have an advantage against others. Equipped with this, it will be easier to allow them to climb p the corporate ladder or advance quicker in their desired job path and also make business deals with foreigners easier.

To the teens, by becoming aware of the nonverbal cues and its different interpretations across cultures, they are more culturally integrated. They then begin to comprehend others who will vary form their own more intently and finally learn to mingle cohesively with others. With this being achieved, world calmness can slowly be materialized thru the initiatives of the youngsters around the world.

To the elderly, with the knowledge of the nonverbal cues across ethnicities they may become more alert to the changes around them. By doing so, they don't be shaken by the changes which can happen around them. Also thus giving them the chance to learn about certain actions which might be, in their culture, rude or obscene but isn't for another. That is to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

Scope and Limitations

This study centers more on the overall review on what nonverbal communication is and the normal interpretation of nonverbal cues around the world. Nonverbal communication is still a budding research theme in the medical community; hence, there aren't that lots of studies yet that are conducted on the subject. Because of time constraints, this newspaper isn't able to discuss the specifics which revolve around the subject. The researcher had not been able to know how each study was conducted by the individual in specialist. The researcher was only in a position to obtain the conclusions which were derived from these studies and experimentations. Also the aspect of communication in which this subject matter was centered was on face-to-face relationships, not thru any other means. Another limitation is the fact only a portion of all interpretation of nonverbal cues across the world is discussed in the reason why. As what was stated earlier, the interpretation of nonverbal communication across cultures is a relatively new project in the methodical community and only a small number of research has been conducted presently. Another reason being that literatures and options about this subject matter are still relatively new which almost all of these are incredibly hard to find or be obtained especially inside our locality.

Definition of Terms

Nonverbal communication. A process whereby people, through the intentional or unintentional manipulation of normative actions and targets, express experiences, feelings and attitudes to be able to relate to and control themselves, others and their conditions.

Intrinsic codes.


In the catalogs written by Griffin (1991) and Hayakawa (1990), it was explained that communication does not have any single accepted definition. But rather there are three perspectives where it is realized.

First is the Communication Action Perspective. It is defined predicated on the activities of the individuals included - meaning it can be either sender-oriented of receiver-oriented. Based on the sender oriented definition, communication happens if the sender gets the goal to send a note with the use of a language. It really is irrelevant to learn if ever the receiver has got the concept or not. Alternatively, the receiver-oriented explanation contains that communication as the response of organism to a stimulus.

The second point of view is the Communication Process Point of view. It appears on communication as the collaborative work of two or more individuals. Therefore, matching to this perspective, it is incorrect to expect that communication is happening between two different people if only an example may be involved in the process; regardless is he/she is the sender or at the getting end. You will find three meanings of the Communication Process Point of view. First is the bilateral meaning which assumes that the sender must plan to send a message and that the device must interpret that meaning. Second is the Interaction-oriented description which retains that communication happens if two folks are both mailing and receiving emails. And lastly the shared-meaning definition supports that communication happens only if the message is actually, although not precisely, interpreted as what it was imagine to.

For purposes of understanding Nonverbal Communication it is strongly recommended to utilize the last communication point of view is the Communication Code Perspective. It emphasizes that communication can be done thru the use of communication rules. First type of communication code is the intrinsic codes. These are codes which we have even before labor and birth. They are biologically shared rules among humans for communication purposes. Next are iconic rules which are learned where the outward appearances are used to deliberately to talk to others. The last communication code is the arbitrary code which really is a learned signal system which is socially built and it uses symbols to convey messages.

Nonverbal Communication

Importance of Nonverbal Communication

In an article by the Oklahoma Panhandle Condition School, it was noted that that Hickson & Stacks (1985) described nonverbal communication as "An activity whereby people, through the intentional or unintentional manipulation of normative actions and prospects, express experiences, feelings, and attitudes in order to relate to and control themselves, others and their surroundings. " Additionally, Wertheim mentioned in his article that a sizable percentage of the meaning derived from communication is from the non-verbal cues.

Moreover, in a study conducted by Teacher Albert Mehrabian called Mehrabian's communication review attests to the fact that indeed nonverbal communication performs a crucial part in the communication process. Mehrabians concluded the following from the experiments he conducted. He eventually generalized that in all communication, 7% happens thru spoken words while 38% thru tone of voice firmness and 55% happens via body gestures, both being nonverbal ways of communicating. Although the precise amounts may be challenged, the fact remains that the majority of communication happens nonverbally.

The words of Remland (2000) in his book seem apt as conclusion to this area of the paper. He explained that,

Overall, it compensates to look good, wear an authoritative uniform, dress up, make eyes contact, get close, and use light touch to the forearm or shoulder. Perhaps with additional research we might be able to add other nonverbal cues - facial expression, conversation accents, vocal attributes, posture and so forth - that may possibly also change lives. It may wonder us to learn that seemingly trivial activities can play so dominant a role inside our everyday interactions.

Properties of Nonverbal Communication

According of Leathers (2008), Nonverbal Communication has four distinctive properties which distinguish it from Verbal Communication. They are the next:

First property is that many nonverbal cues are universal. For the reason that of their survival value for our types. They identify us, protect us and help in courtship and mating.

The next property is nonverbal communication is that nonverbal signals are directed and received spontaneously. We can always choose our words carefully, but nonverbal cues such as blushing, falling our jaw and so many more occur involuntarily. That's the reason nonverbal messages tend to be believable as a result of cause-and-effect relationship. But it doesn't mean they can not be mimicked, it is just that lots of are tough to fake and most are hard to fake convincingly.

The third property is that nonverbal communication resembles the items they indicate. Unlike verbal communication which doesn't invariably signify their referents, nonverbal cues always signify theirs. This characterizes a lot of what nonverbal communication is and it allows fostering of shared understanding; even between people who speak different languages.

The last property is that nonverbal alerts can be made simultaneously, even as we use language. When we speak, write or hint, we must do it one word at a time. But in nonverbal communication we can use several nonverbal cues simultaneously like body activity, facial manifestation and the loves to express a note. Because of this, nonverbal cues can either be used to reinforce an individual message or even send a merged transmission one.

Functions of Nonverbal Communication

Remland (2000), in his publication, stated that nonverbal cues have four main functions, specifically:

First is the identification function. All family pets have a definite id, including humans. Their identities must have the ability to be signaled to others. Because identities play an essential role in the success of the humans, they have become an integral part of the communication process. It really is thru appearance and behavioral alerts in which we are able to converse to others a lot of things. Several impulses are inherent since labor and birth, but humans are suffering from uncanny ways of altering these identities in order to connect certain communications.

The next function is the partnership function. It is the important task of getting along with others. Nonverbal cues assist in the forming of relationships with others in order to make it through. Many nonverbal impulses are used in order show how personal a romance is and who's going to maintain control.

The third function is the emotion function. Nonverbal signals are used to let others understand how they feel. These impulses aid in adaptation to the environment and also it helps communicate purpose to others. Many of these signals are participate in intrinsic communication rules but some screen of feelings are more like public showings of what we want others to trust therefore they are really classified under iconic communication codes.

The previous function of Nonverbal Communication is the delivery function. It requires the exchange of information about the outside world. In articles by Andrews School and Segal of helpguide. org, it was cited that under the delivery function of nonverbal communication, nonverbal cues are being used to duplicate the verbal message, accent the verbal message, go with or dispute the verbal concept and could even swap the verbal meaning.

Nonverbal Cues and their Combination- Cultural Interpretation


Wikipedia. org quoted the definition of Kinesics from Ray Birdwhistell (1952) as the interpretation of body language; more formally non-verbal patterns related to motion, either of any part of the body or your body all together. Kinesics has many classifications, particularly:

The first classification under Kinesics is physical position. The Management Sciences for Health, a business blah blah, talked about within an article of theirs about physical position that in many cultures about the world, it's impolite to show underneath of the shoe. That's why you need to never remain with one feet resting on the opposite knee. In the meantime in Argentina, position with practical the hips means anger or an issue. Also in many cultures slouching is being disrespectful specifically in Taiwan wherein men stay with both foot firmly on the floor.

The second classification is gestures. Matsumoto in his paper stated that David Efron was the pioneer in the study of gestures across ethnicities when he evaluated gestures of Sicilian, Lithuanian and Jewish immigrants in New York City. Matsumoto mentioned that his studies became the origins of the study of culture and gestures. As what Andrews College or university pointed out in their article, gestures are impossible to catalog. But they are would have to be studied upon due to following reasons. First is the fact gestures can be suitable in one culture but can be rude or offensive in another. Second is that if used incorrectly, the message might not be interpreted as it was designed to be. And third, without the knowledge of interpretation of gestures in a global context might trigger awkward situations.

In the articles of Steve Darn of the Izmir University, by Andrews School and by the Management Sciences for Health, it was written that the next hands gestures are subject to different social interpretations such as the following.

The perfect indication commonly means everything's fine, but in France it means little or nothing, in Japan it's symbolic for money, in Germany it has a rude meaning and in Malta, Greece and Brazil it comes with an obscene connotation.

The thumb up indication is also at the mercy of careful usage. Dresser ( ) also attests to this when she brought up in her publication it commonly means okay, but in Australia, Nigeria and even generally in most Middle Eastern Countries as well, it has a rude connotation. On the other hand, in Japan in means five and finally in Turkey it means political rightist get together.

The next gesture is pointing. In the US, people point with their index finger, this in Japan is considered rude. They point with their whole hand. Folks from Germany on the other side point with the little finger.

The previous gesture is the crooked finger. Dresser ( ) stated that in Japan it is an obscene gesture. In Yugoslavia and Malaysia, it can be used to call family pets. In Indonesia and Australia it is used to beckon prostitutes and in Vietnam, it is used to call inferiors or pets. And lastly in most cultures when this gesture can be used between people of equal status, it is considered as an take action of hostility.


Andrews University defined Oculesics or commonly called Attention Contact as the assembly of the eyes between two individuals. Furthermore, honlulu. hawaii. edu and Management Sciences for Health both agree that eye contact is an important route of social communication. The usage of vision contact is essential in our day to day interactions and is an extremely powerful nonverbal cue. Studies have found that folks use their sight to indicate their interest.

Matsumoto talked about in his paper that Watson (1970) classified 30 countries as either a contact culture or a noncontact one. Contact cultures take part in more gazing while noncontact ones had less. Andrews School cited a good example of this in one of their articles mentioning that People in the usa feel unpleasant with the gaze associated with Arab or Indian communication patterns. Western ethnicities see direct eyes to eyeball contact as positive. Arabic ethnicities meanwhile make continuous eye-contact because in their culture it shows passions and helps them understand truthfulness. Dresser ( ) also attests that Japanese, African, Latin American and Carribean ethnicities on the other hands avoid attention contact to show respect.

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